Power company officials say the project is needed to shore up the nation's ailing electrical grid and, as proposed, "minimizes the effect on the natural and human environment."
The project faces strong opposition, though, in part because PSC approval would allow the power company to use eminent domain to obtain rights of way from landowners. Other critics argue that PATH, like the already approved TrAIL power line, is little more than a huge extension cord to allow more pollution-causing coal-fired power to be sent from Appalachia and the Ohio Valley to East Coast population centers.
Also, as the PSC staff motion from earlier this month indicated, opponents of PATH increasingly have been pointing to questions about whether the nation's utility grid managers -- at a private company called PJM -- are fully considering alternatives when they back projects like the PATH power line.
In their Monday filing, AEP and Allegheny lawyers said that they had recently learned that PJM's new 2011 Load Forecast Report would include some projects "that are different" from those in the prior year's report and that those projections "may have an impact on the current" date of June 2015 for when utilities believe the PATH project is needed.
"In view of this development, applicants fully expect that staff and intervenors will urge the commission to require, and that the commission will wish to see, a thorough presentation of how the revised load projections affect the in-service date for the PATH project and applicants' need evidence," the utility lawyers told the PSC.
In its Monday filing, the PSC consumer advocates said they remain concerned about the potential costs of PATH and the impacts those costs would have on consumers. They also noted that the same consulting firm that did "significant work" for the power companies on the PATH project performed PJM's only analysis of the power line's costs.
David Sade, deputy consumer advocate, said his office believes that more detailed study would show that other developments -- including a construction upgrade the Mount Storm-Doubs power line -- would allow PATH to at least "no longer be needed on an imminent basis."
In its earlier filing the PSC staff noted that the Mount Storm-Doubs project is part of proposal that Dominion Power submitted to PJM as a potential alternative to PATH. That proposal included several other power line upgrades and a total price of $620 million, far less than the cost of PATH.
Reach Ken Ward Jr. at kw...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1702.